Is Elbow the best band in the world right now?

Elbow at the 2009 NME Awards - picture courtesy of Life.com
My favorite band since the mid-eighties had been Liverpool’s Echo and the Bunnymen. During their original run no band came close to what Ian McCulloch on vocals and rhythm guitar, Will Sergeant on lead guitar, Les Pattinson on bass and Pete de Freitas on percussion did both in the studio and live. Their first four proper studio albums are in this writer’s opinion the greatest opening run in music history (still feel this way as of 3/5/2017), with album number four Ocean Rain their crowning achievement and my Favorite Album of All-Time.

However, typical with great artists things eventually come to an end as Ian McCulloch left to pursue a solo career and Pete de Freitas was tragically killed in a car accident. After years apart the remaining three members reunited and created an album by the name of Evergreen in 1997. Sad to say, but the magic was gone that fueled that band from 1978-1988. Note: I saw Echo in concert last year and they were unbelievable live, first time seeing them in 28 years. I was in awe.

Today another band that has become a HUGE favorite is poised to take has taken over the crown of Tfronky’s Favorite Band. I’m sure they could care less about the title, but I’m happy as heck. 🙂

A few years (2006 or 2007, I can’t remember) ago, I was introduced to an exceptional Britpop band out of Manchester, U.K., by the name of Elbow. Bobby Lerma, drummer for Arizona post-punk band The Father Figures, made me a compilation of tracks from their first three albums, Asleep in the Back, Cast of Thousands and Leaders of the Free World. Two days after getting it and playing the disc over and over, I actually pulled my car over into a Jack-in-the-Box parking lot to call him and curse him out for waiting so long to introduce them to me. Of course, I didn’t take any responsibility for not discovering Elbow on my own, but that is irrelevant in this case. 😉

I have raved about this band ever since to anyone caring or not caring to listen. The line-up for Elbow has remained the same since day one not anymore 😦 when they came together as a band by the name of Mr. Soft in 1990. Elbow is lead vocalist and lyricist Guy Garvey, guitarist Mark Potter, keyboardist Craig Potter, bassist Pete Turner and drummer Richard Jupp (sadly for Elbow fans Jupp announced in 2016 he was leaving the band). Playing a style of Britpop heavy on solid what may be the best instrumentation ever to grace the studio, the incredible vocals of Guy Garvey and deeply moving, well-written lyrics, Elbow delivers music that is full of power but delivered in a “subtle” manner. Yes, subtle. And EPIC. Listen to Elbow and you will understand what I mean. Thanks for the proper adjective Bobby.

When their fourth album The Seldom Seen Kid came out in 2008, I pre-ordered it directly from the manufacturer and when I had not received it by the release date, I actually downloaded it from iTunes, simply because I refused to wait for my hard copy. It quickly became a huge favorite and today is my favorite Elbow studio album.

A few months later in May 2008, I traveled to Denver, CO to see the band play live at the Bluebird Theatre. An incredible performance, the band nearly had me in tears during their unbelievable delivery of “Newborn” on that evening. It should come as no surprise that with all the amazing live performances I have witnessed over the years, my first Elbow show would reign supreme as my Favorite Concert of All-Time. Note: Several concerts since then have come close, such as Bob Mould at the First Avenue playing Copper Blue in its entirety, Dead Can Dance at the Temple Buell Theatre and Explosions in the Sky at the Marquee Theater, but when I ponder things that 2008 Elbow show is still the king.

January of 2009 I was able to purchase an import copy of The Seldom Seen Kid Live at Abbey Road. Elbow won the 2008 Mercury Prize for Best Album, and to celebrate the victory the band played the entire album from start to finish at the legendary Abbey Road Studios in London. The set comes with both a CD and DVD of the performance. As good as the studio version of The Seldom Seen Kid is, this live version is even more stunning.

A few months before I turned 40 years of age in 2009 I put together my own Elbow compilation. I joked with Bobby that if I ever had the money to pull a Jeff Spicoli and hire Elbow to play my birthday party (the current theme for The Musings!), I would ask them to play this specific set list:

  1. Starlings – The Seldom Seen Kid
  2. The Bones of You – The Seldom Seen Kid
  3. Grounds for Divorce – The Seldom Seen Kid
  4. Fallen Angel – Cast of Thousands
  5. Not a Job – Cast of Thousands
  6. The Everthere – Leaders of the Free World
  7. Scattered Black and Whites – Asleep in the Back
  8. Great Expectations – Leaders of the Free World
  9. Running to Stand Still – U2 cover from War Child’s Heroes compilation
  10. Some Riot – The Seldom Seen Kid
  11. One Day Like This – The Seldom Seen Kid
  12. Newborn – Asleep in the Back (END OF FIRST SET)
  13. (ENCORE) – Station Approach – Leaders of the Free World
  14. Powder Blue – Asleep in the Back
  15. Puncture Repair – Leaders of the Free World
  16. Grace Under Pressure – Cast of Thousands

Yep, I even had the encore planned out.

The title of this little compilation is We Still Believe in Love, So Fuck You. Yes, there is relevant meaning behind the title before all you PC types get offended.

There was an original version of this compilation that had a few different songs, but this has been the mix for about a year now. Note: Two changes since then. 🙂 The best thing about putting together an Elbow compilation is you cannot go wrong. ANY song you pick is going to be a stellar choice! This is where you come in, if you are so inclined.

What is your Elbow mix? Pick your 16 25 30 favorite Elbow tracks since that is how many are included in my track listing and post your mix in the comments. I’m curious to read what other fans of Elbow think.

Next spring, studio album number five! I may have to go to Manchester to see them there next year; U.K. concert dates have already been posted. I’m looking forward to see what direction the band takes moving forward after six incredible studio albums and hitting the arena stage status.

Cheers!
Frank

UPDATE! Well folks, it is now March 2015 and Elbow has released two more albums since I first wrote this post, 2011’s build a rocket boys! and 2014’s The Take Off and Landing of Everything. build a rocket boys! was my #3 Best Albums pick of 2011 while The Take Off and Landing of Everything put Elbow back where they belong at #1. Nearly five full years have passed since I first wrote this post and the band has released those two albums and some great EPs such as iTunes Festival: London 2012 and 2014’s World Cafe Live, so I thought a birthday playlist update was in order. Yep, still a dream of mine. Since they have so many more great songs now and the reason I only picked 16 last time is that is how many fit on one CD, I am taking the liberty of expanding things to 25 and two encores. Remember, this is MY party …

  1. Starlings – The Seldom Seen Kid
  2. The Bones of You – The Seldom Seen Kid
  3. Mirrorball – The Seldom Seen Kid
  4. Grounds for Divorce – The Seldom Seen Kid
  5. Ribcage – Cast of Thousands
  6. Fallen Angel – Cast of Thousands
  7. Not a Job – Cast of Thousands
  8. This Blue World – The Take Off and Landing of Everything
  9. The Everthere – Leaders of the Free World
  10. Scattered Black and Whites – Asleep in the Back
  11. Great Expectations – Leaders of the Free World
  12. Running to Stand Still – U2 cover from War Child’s Heroes compilation
  13. My Sad Captains – The Take Off and Landing of Everything
  14. Open Arms – build a rocket boys!
  15. Lippy Kids – build a rocket boys! (END OF FIRST SET)
  16. (1ST ENCORE) Powder Blue – Asleep in the Back
  17. Some Riot – The Seldom Seen Kid
  18. Friend of Ours – The Seldom Seen Kid
  19. One Day Like This – The Seldom Seen Kid
  20. Newborn – Asleep in the Back (END OF SECOND SET)
  21. (2ND ENCORE) Station Approach – Leaders of the Free World
  22. Neat Little Rows – build a rocket boys!
  23. The Loneliness of a Tower Crane Driver – The Seldom Seen Kid
  24. Puncture Repair – Leaders of the Free World
  25. Grace Under Pressure – Cast of Thousands

Now THAT is one hell of a set of music!

ANOTHER UPDATE! March 9, 2015 was the last update to this post, now it’s March 5 of 2017 so almost two years to the day and more important, album #7 Little Fictions has been released. It topped the U.K. charts in its first week of release and is another majestic piece of work. Since the last edit the band released the Lost Worker Bee EP in July 2015, a release I absolutely love! Two of the four songs from that EP have been added to my dream playlist, one song from Little Fictions and one each from Cast of Thousands and Leaders of the Free World. Drummer Richard Jupp may no longer be in the band but as good as he is, and he is one of my favorite percussionists, Elbow is the greatest band in the world for one simple reason – they create the most dynamic music of any band on the planet. Period. I added five more tracks for an even 30. Guy Garvey is married now and has a child on the way so I do not see a U.S. tour happening right away. I’m hoping for late 2017/early 2018, we shall see. I’ll keep playing this new playlist for now.

You’re welcome for the last video I added to this post. 🙂 Cheers!

tfronky

elbow-setlist-part-1elbow-setlist-part-2elbow-setlist-part-3

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23 comments

  1. Seth · October 12, 2010

    Now, that is a quality blog post!

  2. tfronky · October 12, 2010

    Thanks. Now post a playlist. 😉

  3. Dave Marsh · October 13, 2010

    Dave’s Playlist of Elbow Songs

    1. Mirrorball (Seldom Seen Kid)
    2. Powder Blue (Asleep in the Back)
    3. Newborn (Asleep in the Back)
    4. Picky Bugger (Leaders of the Free World)
    5. Ribcage (Cast of Thousands)
    6. The Loneliness of a Tower Crane Driver (Seldom Seen Kid)
    7. Weather to Fly (Seldom Seen Kid)
    8. Fugitive Motel (Cast of Thousands)
    9. Grace Under Pressure (Cast of Thousands)
    10. Station Approach (Leaders of the Free World)
    11. The Everthere (Leaders of the Free World)
    12. Any Day Now (Asleep in the Back)
    13. Scattered Blacks and Whites (Asleep in the Back)
    14. One Day Like This (Seldom Seen Kid)
    15. Friend of Ours (Seldom Seen Kid)
    16. Red (Asleep in the Back)
    Check out ALL of Elbow’s songs, you will realize how great all of it is!

  4. tfronky · October 13, 2010

    GREAT playlist Dave! Tough to limit it to just 16!

  5. Allyn · October 18, 2010

    I did something like this on my own blog about a year ago; I was given a meme — answer questions using one band’s songs — and what I came up with I really liked. It was seventeen questions, not sixteen, and the resulting “playlist” has become a favorite of mine.

    1. Picky Bugger (Leaders)
    2. Asleep in the Back (Asleep in the Back)
    3. Scattered Black and Whites (Asleep in the Back)
    4. An Imagined Affair (Leaders)
    5. The Long War Shuffle (B-side to Leaders of the Free World single)
    6. Strangeways to Holcombe Hill in 4:20 (B-side to Forget Myself single)
    7. Station Approach (Leaders)
    8. Friend of Ours (The Seldom Seen Kid)
    9. Powder Blue (Asleep in the Back)
    10. About Time (B-Side to Powder Blue single)
    11. Some Riot (The Seldom Seen Kid)
    12. One Day Like This (The Seldom Seen Kid)
    13. Grace Under Pressure (Cast of Thousands)
    14. McGreggor (B-Side to Forget Myself single)
    15. Lay Down Your Cross (Cast of Thousands)
    16. Lucky With Disease (B-Side to Newborn single)
    17. The Stops (Leaders)

    It’s a deep-cuts kind of playlist; sticks with older (and rare) material as opposed to the “big” songs. It comes in (according to WinAmp) at an hour eighteen minutes, so it barely fits onto a CD. 🙂

    If I had to ditch one track to get under 16, I’d ditch “McGreggor.” It’s a weird track, a bit “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”-like.

    As for your list, I like the look of it. The use of a cover track, “Running to Stand Still,” I respect a lot; Elbow is a rarity in these days, a very good cover band. I myself would go for “Working Class Hero” (the John Lennon track) over “Running to Stand Still,” but it’s a personal thing.

    The next album cannot come soon enough, in my opinion. 🙂

  6. tfronky · October 18, 2010

    Allyn,

    That’s a hell of a play list! I would love a lot of people to add their play list to this post, giving me plenty of fuel to burn some very cool mixes.

    Thanks for taking the time to reply, I’ll check out your blog. Cheers!

  7. ricky legless · November 5, 2010

    the stops… WHERE’S THE STOPS! my lord, at least you got powder blue in there 😉

  8. Els Renwa · November 14, 2010

    Hi,
    I’m 47, female and from Belgium. I’m still exploring the music of Elbow and I like it every day more and more. I’m looking forward to their new album next spring. I’m also a fan of the last shadow puppets.

    My favourite play list
    1. One day like this
    2. Bones of you
    3. Weather to fly
    4. Switching off
    5. Mirrorball
    6. Not a job
    7. The loneliness of a tower crane driver
    8. Newborn
    9. Starlings
    10. Teardrop

    Are there other bands you can recommend me? I’m not so familiar with british music.
    Thanks

    • tfronky · November 15, 2010

      Thanks for commenting Els! There are a lot of great Manchester, UK bands, old and new, to check out if you like Elbow. I suggest Doves, New Order/Joy Divison, The Chameleons, Stone Roses, The Smiths. Other Britpop bands to check out if you like Elbow include Radiohead and Catherine Wheel. You really need to check out The National from Brooklyn in the US if you like Elbow!

  9. Bobble · December 27, 2010

    I’m 13 years old and God I love Elbow! I only got into them a while back because my Mum listens to them, so I’m still exploring their music.

    1) Starlings (The Seldom seen Kid)
    2) Forget Myself (Leaders of the Free World)
    4) Mirrorball (The Seldom seen Kid)
    5) Grounds for Divorce (The Seldom seen Kid)
    6) Station Approach (Leaders of the Free World)
    7) Bitten by the Tailfly (Asleep in the Back)
    8) Ribcage (Cast of Thousands)
    9) Red (Asleep in the Back)
    10) The Lonliness of a Tower Crane Driver (The Seldom seen Kid)
    11) Weather to Fly (The Seldom seen Kid)
    12)Fugitive motel (Cast of Thousands)
    13)The Bones of You (The Seldom seen Kid)
    14)The Stops (Leaders of the Free World)
    15)One day like this (The Seldom seen Kid)
    16)Friend of Ours (The Seldom seen Kid)

    Mostly a mix of Seldom seen and Leaders, but with a few Aspleep and Cast tracks thrown in.

  10. Pingback: Tfronky’s List of Top Eleven Underrated Bands | The Musings of Frank Gallardo
  11. Dave Marsh · September 14, 2011

    I just reviewed this blog again, and it is still poignant. I am going to see Elbow for the first time in LA 10/1 with a dear friend, and I CANNOT WAIT!

  12. Pingback: Tfronky’s October road trip – Hello Los Angeles and more important, Hello Elbow! | The Musings of Frank Gallardo
  13. Pingback: Bob Mould at the First Avenue September 15, 2012 | The Musings of Frank Gallardo
  14. Gianni · April 6, 2014

    I didn’t raise no thief…

    Station Approach
    Red
    Mirrorball
    The Bones of You
    Tower Crane Driver
    Working Class Hero (Cast of Thousands B Sides)
    Newborn
    Teardrop [Massive Attack Cover / Asleep in the Back B Sides]
    Ribcage
    Switching Off
    Not a Job
    Neat Little Rows
    My Sad Captains
    Open Arms
    Fugitive Motel
    One Day Like This

  15. Timothy Dannenhoffer · March 31, 2015

    I’d say Elbow are one of the greatest bands of all time…and it’s really really sad, considering how great they are, that more Americans don’t know and love them.

  16. Timothy Dannenhoffer · March 31, 2015

    And they are RIDICULOUS good live. And I LOVE seeing them in small venues but they deserve to hit it big and play arenas in the US.

    • tfronky · March 31, 2015

      That show I saw back in 2008 in Denver was amazing. Yes, an intimate venue is where they belong but ecstatic they enjoy the success they do overseas now to allow them to play in huge venues and festivals. I thought it was criminal when Coachella had them in one of the tents back in 2011.

  17. Timothy Dannenhoffer · August 7, 2015

    1) Scattered Black and Whites
    2) Red
    3) Asleep in the Back
    4) Newborn
    5) The Stops
    6) Puncture Repair
    7) Mirrorball
    8) Friend of Ours
    9) Great Expectations
    10) The Night Will Always Win
    11) My Sad Captains
    12) Open Arms
    13) My Very Best
    14) The Bones of You
    15) Real Life (Angel)
    16) High Ideals
    17) Station Approach
    18) One Day Like This
    19) Some Riot
    20) Grounds for Divorce
    21) Charge
    22) Weather to Fly
    23) Lucky With Disease
    24) Fugitive Motel
    25) Mexican Standoff

    Not necessarily on that order…scramble away!

    • tfronky · October 31, 2015

      Awesome list! Thanks for taking the time to comment!
      Frank

  18. vnavas · January 2

    While waiting for Little Fictions, this is my playlist (impossible to pick only 25) https://open.spotify.com/user/navas.vt/playlist/4pySUIzOpYP0c6NIVpz3dZ

    It includes (Magnificent) and together fly boy blue… one of the best stuff one can listen ever…

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